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39,082 days later, Lillian turns 107

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Catherine W. Idzerda
January 14, 2008
— Lillian Greenman hardly could sleep Saturday night.

On Sunday, she was celebrating her birthday with her family.


It's not surprising Greenman was so excited—107 is a pretty big milestone in anyone's life.


"I was thinking about all the things that were going to happen today," Greenman said on Sunday in the living room of Liberty Hall at Mercy Assisted Living in Janesville.


Along with her family birthday celebration, another party is being held for friends and the public at 1:30 p.m. Monday at Mercy Assisted Living.


Greenman was born Jan. 14, 1901. She has two children, four great-grandchildren, one great-great-grandchild and a wonderful collection of stories.


As a child, she lived in a stone farmhouse on Stone Farm Road near Edgerton. It was a great place—except for the lady in the cistern.


"The man who lived there before us had run off," Greenman recalled. "The neighbors said they had heard the two of them fighting."


Eventually, the neighbors found the woman's body in the cistern.


"Imagine, we had been washing with that water," Greenman said.


And then there was whooping cough and a tornado, too.


"I had whooping cough, and my mother was taking me to Janesville to see the doctor in the buggy," Greenman said.


When the wind and rain started up, she and her mother stopped in a kind of underpass. The water had risen up to the horse's underbelly before they were able to go on.


"Dad was awful glad to seen us when we got home," Greenman said.


Another time, the horse bolted, and her sister was thrown from the buggy.


Greenman tells her stories with a good-natured air and plenty of funny asides, as though tornados, illness and even broken noses all were part of life's great pageant.


She attended Cox School at the "Four Corners," describing herself as a "fair" student.


On the playground, she always was the pitcher in ball games. Once, she got smacked in the nose with the bat.


"The teacher couldn't leave school, so I sat there getting black and blue," Greenman said with a slight grin.


As a young woman, she spent two years at Whitewater Normal School, studying to become a teacher. She was in a sorority, attended plenty of dances, but didn't care much for teaching.


"I taught arithmetic and spelling to second-graders," Greenman said. "They were little devils."


That was enough of that.


She went to work at Parker Pen and met her future husband, George, at a dance. They were married in 1926, and they celebrated 56 years together before he died at 85 years old.


So what's the secret for long life? What advice could she give the rest of us?


She confessed that she really didn't know. A frown creased her face momentarily.


Then after a thoughtful pause she spoke up.


"I was always a happy person. I have a wonderful family," Greenman said, her smile spreading across her face in gentle waves.



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